PHIL2410 Mind & Language in Chinese Thought

(First semester, 2018–2019 academic year)

(Time and location TBA)

Issues pertaining to the philosophy of mind and language played a crucial role in the philosophical dialectic of classical China. This course will guide students in reconstructing these issues and exploring their philosophical significance by interpreting and critically evaluating selected early Chinese philosophical texts that treat mind, language, and interrelated aspects of psychology.

The course will be divided into three main parts, devoted to three topics: (1) the doctrine of "correcting" or "rectifying" names, along with the theoretical context behind the doctrine, including its political and ethical implications and the role of language in guiding action; (2) epistemology and the relations between language, mind, and knowledge, including the semantic theory and epistemology of the Mozi, the Mohist Canons, and the Xunzi; and (3) Daoist skepticism about constructive theories of language and knowledge. Texts to be discussed will include the Analects, Mozi, Daodejing, Xunzi, Zhuangzi, and Lushi Chunqiu. Class time will be divided between lecture and discussion. Students will be asked to read primary source texts and participate actively in classroom and online discussions. Translations will be made available for those without reading knowledge of classical Chinese. 

Learning Objectives and Outcomes

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe selected foundational issues in classical Chinese philosophy of mind and language

  • Critically examine a range of positions on and approaches to these issues and identify their strengths and weaknesses

  • Demonstrate interpretive, analytical, and argumentative skills in oral presentation and writing by discussing these issues and theories in written assignments and tutorials

  • Demonstrate appreciation of the distinctiveness of the classical Chinese approach to mind and language and the similarities and contrasts with Western views

Preliminary Syllabus

1. Introduction: Language, Mind, and Dào

2. Correcting Names: Language and Action

3. Epistemology: Drawing Distinctions

4. Skepticism and Skill

Coursework and Assessment

Class participation (20%), short writing assignments (40%), final paper (40%).